I covered 203 copyright transfer termination rights mechanics, the post-2013 response of copyright creators and copyright-industries when the first termination “window” opened for post-1977 transfers, and stakeholder and commentator forecasts about whether the anticipated termination tidal wave of destruction is more academic than real.
Copyright transfer termination permits a copyright creator to reclaim control of his or her copyright several decades after transferring the right. This applies to all copyright transfers no matter what a contract may say about a perpetual transfer. Creators cannot waive this right. But they can forfeit it if they are not careful.
In fact, some creators have already forfeited their rights if they transferred copyright in 1978 and failed to serve notice of termination by 2016.
I offered some preliminary conclusions on the future of copyright-dependent industries in light of the 203 termination right.
Entrepreneurs, artists and inventors who want to learn more about protecting rights to their ideas and work are encouraged to take advantage of a seminar designed to introduce the basics of intellectual property law.
The program, presented by Widener Law with support from DuPont, is also intended to benefit attorneys with backgrounds outside intellectual property law. It presents an opportunity for the small business community to learn strategies for success that can strengthen the ability to create jobs and grow in a difficult economy. The program is additionally designed to encourage pro bono assistance from seasoned intellectual property professionals to support these innovators.
“Introduction to Intellectual Property Law” will be held Thursday, April 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom in the Main Law Building at 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, Del.
In previous posts, I have focused mostly on literary creations in the publishing industry (books, articles, magazines, and so forth). But copyright in a song (whether lyrics, music, or both) is created in the same way as in any other literary or artistic work. And music copyright is made up of the same bundle of rights, which includes the right to publish.
What Music Publishing Is All About
Although the Internet has in some cases removed the “middleman” from the music publishing equation in some sense (and of course there’s Platinum Hit), traditionally only those who were well-known songwriters could go it alone without the assistance of a music publisher. The reason is because it is a challenge for an emerging or undiscovered songwriters to commercially exploit her music on a significant scale without the help of a music publisher, one who licenses your songs to others for flat fees or royalties so that your songs get recorded or played or synchronized in TV and film and so forth. Performance royalties are all right, but music publishing, if properly managed, is really where the money is in the music industry.
Music publishing can be big business. It is also confusing to many songwriters who tend to focus on the creative aspects of writing rather than the business and legal sides. Essentially, there are two potential income streams involved in songwriting: first is the songwriter’s share as the creator and copyright owner, and second is the publisher’s share for the person or company that actually enables the song to be released to the public (i.e., to be published). This has been explained in the past as the two “pies,” where the total percentage of income is 200 percent (each of the pies equaling 100 percent).
This explanation is somewhat outdated and only adds to confusion. Others explain the writer’s share as 50 percent of the revenues and the publisher’s share as the other 50 percent.
Regardless of how you slice it (pun intended), in general, songwriters transfer some percentage (or all) of the copyright to the publisher, and keep the entire songwriter’s share of income and none (or very little) of the publisher’s share. The percentage of copyright transfers affects the way money is split between you and the publisher. [sample publishing agreement]
If you do a co-publishing deal in which you (or the publishing company that you form) team up with an established publisher, then you will most likely transfer 50 percent of the copyright to the publisher, keep the entire writer’s share of revenues, and split the publisher’s share of revenues fifty-fifty. [sample co-pub agreement]
Or you may be in a strong negotiating position and opt for an administration deal, in which case you will control copyright and keep all of the songwriter’s share, all (or most) of the publisher’s share, and simply pay to the company an administrative fee for handling the business of exploiting and managing your copyrights.